Wisconsin Point (Superior Entry) Lighthouse, Photo courtesy lighthousefriends.com.

November, 1970

Lake Superior was at its worst, with winds of 70 m.p.h. blowing icy waves over the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse and shaking the concrete building.

Although the U.S. Coast Guard keepers’ main dwelling was on the mainland, the lighthouse was equipped with a kitchen, living room, three bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. These living quarters were used so the keepers didn’t have to go back and forth twice a day from the mainland. Most of the time, the keepers reached the lighthouse by boat instead of walking out the 500-yard-long breakwater.

But this storm had gone on for two days and two young guardsmen. Robert Dunno and Fred Ketola, were stranded at the lighthouse. Wind and waves had crashed through windows twenty feet high and sent spray over the top of the seventy-foot lighthouse, and water was slowly filling the lower level. The radio beacon equipment was ruined, the power was out, and the backup generator provided little heat and light. Their food supplies were low, and their fresh water was almost gone.

The keepers consumed their last meal with provisions boiled in lake water and faced the necessity of leaving, or they would starve and freeze to death. So on November 28, they left the confines of the lighthouse and ventured out onto the ice-covered breakwater knowing how dangerous the effort would be to reach the mainland. Neither man wore a life jacket as they faced winds and wave that could sweep them away.


Wisconsin Point (Superior Entry) lighthouse at end of breakwater. Photo courtesy USCG archives

At first, they were able to hold onto the railing posts in the concrete, but after that they were forced to lie on their stomachs and crawl across the breakwater as they were lashed by wind and soaked by waves. They had not gotten very far when a strong gust of wind literally blew Fred Ketola off the breakwater and onto the rocks, just inches above the frigid lake. Robert Dunno reached down and grabbed Fred’s arm, pulling him back up.


Meanwhile, head keeper David Simonson had seen the men struggling and had taken line from shore and crawled onto the rocks, securing the line halfway out on the breakwater. The other end was securely held by another coast guardsman on shore. Ketola and Dunno slowly made their way to the halfway point where they reached the lifeline and grasping it, were carefully guided back to shore, thankful to be alive. Blue from the cold and their clothes frozen from the icy seaspray, the men finally reached the comfort and safety of the warm keepers’ house.

Without the lifeline the head keeper brought out to the men, they might not have made it back.

The story made me think of times I’ve been struggling, and someone had handed me a “lifeline” to pull me through. Sometimes it was a phone call from a friend when I felt all alone. Other times, someone helped me by providing something I needed.

But we have other lifelines available as well. Turning to God in prayer and reading His Word in the Bible has given me the relief and reassurance I sought.  I am so thankful to have these lifelines to guide me. Do you have a lifeline?


We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God… — Hebrews 6:18-19  The Message